Calvin Anderson is the number one ranked online MTT player in the world and he's putting those skills to work in the live arena with a run at the 2013 PCA.
Known online as cal42688, Anderson has racked up over $3.5 million in online earnings, including a massive $303k win in the Full Tilt Poker $1.5 million guaranteed in March of 2011.
A mixed-game expert who won two SCOOP titles on PokerStars in a single 24-hour period, Anderson has been playing online poker from Mexico since it was outlawed in the US.
"I Take a Lot of Pride in People Respecting My Game"
But according to Anderson poker success is just one part of a life that he fights to keep balanced. Shortly after the money bubble broke in the PCA main event we sat down with Anderson to learn the secret to his success.
PokerListings.com: We've never had the chance to interview you before and we'd like to start with some background. How'd you get into poker and what were those early days like?
Calvin Anderson: Right from the beginning I think I was one of the rare cases of a true grinder. I've always played on my own, never been backed and I've hardly ever sold action in any tournaments.
When I started out I had a good understanding of gambling, I really liked gambling when I was younger.
And it was also rare because I started out playing mixed games first. Like I played 2-7 No-Limit first at like $0.25/$0.50.
PL: When was this happening?
CA: This was when I was around 18, right when I got online.
Phil Ivey was a big inspiration for Calvin Anderson.
I started playing a little bit of Hold'em and I slowly started realizing that I needed to be where the most players were, regardless of what game it was.
From the beginning I always looked up to Phil Ivey and I wanted to be able to play every game well because I was hoping to do this for a long time.
So I trained myself to be able to beat any fish heads-up in any game. That was my goal and I think I've succeeded in that.
PL: Were you successful right away when you started taking poker more seriously?
CA: I played poker in high school and I always did well, especially in the Draw games like five-card draw and 2-7, but I really didn't make much money.
Then when I was going to college in Oklahoma I was making a bit more money, at least enough spending money that I didn't need to get a job, a little bit here and there.
But it was when I took a full semester off to play poker and started watching videos and taking the game more seriously that things started happening.
Basically I won a few tournaments online for like $10,000 and $7,000 within a few days and decided to take a month and just play really hard MTTs to see what would happen.
That month I made about $100,000 and I won the TLB for the month and just won so many tournaments. After that I was kind of like, “Okay this might work.”
PL: How did that kind of success stack up against your expectations?
CA: I think the key for so many people is having confidence in themselves. You really are your own biggest limiting factor.
If you don't believe in yourself you're not going to be able to do anything.
I really focus on having confidence in myself without getting cocky. I do consider myself a really nice guy but I do have a lot of confidence.
PL: You said you've accomplished your goal of being able to beat any fish in any game heads-up so what are the motivating factors for you now as far as developing your game?
"If you don't believe in yourself you're not going to be able to do anything."
CA: I think the game's constantly changing and you really need to have the right mindset to keep up with it.
I've always thought that it's way better to be listening than talking and I'm always open to new ideas.
In the beginning of poker everyone was 5xing and 4xing and then people started min-raising and all the old guys thought it was crazy.
And then in a couple years it might change again so it's really important to be constantly changing and evolving your game.
PL: Whenever we ask people who the best players are these days your name comes up. Is that something you take pride in?
CA: Yeah I take a lot of pride in people respecting my game. I've definitely worked for it and my reputation is really important to me.
I don't party too much. I don't drink too much. I really try to have good life skills beyond just being a good poker player so I think that's the thing I take the most pride in, having a balanced life.
I don't owe anyone money and if I have a debt then I pay it as soon as I can. I would say that my word is one of the strongest in the poker community and I take a lot of pride in that.
PL: You've accomplished a lot in poker so what are your biggest goals, both inside and outside of poker?
Anderson at the 2011 PCA.
CA: Like I said, I really fight hard for that balance in my life.
Balance between my career, spiritually, intellectually, everything. I want to play a lot of poker and keep learning and getting smarter.
PL: You talked about the poker world getting tougher so are you optimistic about the long-term viability of poker for you as a career?
CA: Yeah I think the really good players are able to constantly adjust. The truly good players will be able to adjust to whatever happens.
The games are definitely changing. Right now you can't play online in the US and there are so many bad players in the US. And all the good US players have moved out of the country and are playing which makes the games that much harder.
But even though the games are getting harder and changing you just need to be able to change with it and stay ahead of the curve.
A lot of people aren't making the kind of money they used to playing poker but they continue to live the same lifestyle.
I really try to live within my means and I don't spend money on stupid shit.
PL: It kind of goes back to that balance you were talking about before.
CA: For sure. There's a lot of people who have had way more success than me but they don't have as much money as I do because of all those other things. It all kind of goes around in one big circle and staying balanced and level-headed throughout is the most important thing.